Tuesday, July 24th
Well today Doug and I switched teams so that we could each get some time with the other teens. So today I was with Zach, Henry, Brian, Kerri, Shayna, Carley, Katie and Aerin. Our first stop was at a ministry that I have already been to with the other group, S.O.M.E. (So Others May Eat.). I had a much different experience this time though. The guy that got on Ryan's case the day before seemed to focus all his attention on me. I got hauled back to the kitchen and had to do dishes. Not the plates and cups stuff, but the big serving containers and all the cooking stuff. Once I would get caught up I would go out into the serving area to cool off and check in with the kids. But the kitchen boss man did not like that. He seemed to find me immediately and order me back to the kitchen. The teens, on the other hand, rocked as they helped to serve breakfast to hundreds of people. Apparently there was a teen from another volunteer group that was serving right along with our teens and she clearly despised our teens. It was humorous to hear our group talk about it afterwards. With the personalities that we have it was good that they did not get confrontational!
For lunch we went to the National Arboretum. This was a beautiful outdoor area. There was also a pond full of what seemed like thousands of fish. Just by throwing in a tiny bit of fish food, the water would disappear under a flood of fish all flopping over themselves trying to get to the food.
Then in the afternoon we had our "Urban Plunge". We broke up the teens into 4 groups of 5 each. Then each team was given an assignment to go into the city and go to a location in which they would try to find out what it is like to be homeless. They needed to find out what a homeless person would do for clothes, food, health care, shelter and such. We also were given 2 dollars each ($10 total for the group) and with that money we had to find diner for ourselves and also share it with someone. If we could get them to talk with us that was a bonus. So my team headed off to Dupont Circle. We began by asking the first person standing outside of the church how to get to the bus we were supposed to take. As is typical with me, that is when the adventure began. He felt that with were we needed to go that was the wrong bus so he took us on a very brisk walk for over a mile to a much better bus stop. He talked our ears off about DC. Once we got to the spot he recommended, as he walked off, a lady overhearing our conversation redirected us to a bus on the other side of the street that she thought would be much faster. So we did that. Once we were on the but though, something did not feel right. Another really nice lady on the bus explained to us we were going the wrong direction so we should take the bus to the end of the route since we were almost there anyhow, and take the train into Dupont Circle. So that is what we did. We navigated the subway system to get to where we needed to go.
Once we were at our park we scoped it out and began talking to people. There was an area that had a bunch of people playing checkers and chess. This provided the opportunity that helped the teens to enter into conversations with others. One older guy in particular, took a liking to our teens and spent some time with them teaching them different levels of checkers. Through those conversations we learned about homelessness and how the city takes care of those who are down and out. This gentleman was not homeless. He was retired. He used to work for the government back in the Kennedy presidency. After that he worked for the US Postal Office until he retired. He also is an elder in a Pentecostal church. He was a really nice guy who enjoyed spending time down at the park as many of the others seemed to know him really well.
For dinner, we finally decided to go to Panera's. We bought a half dozen bagels and a bottled water. We were able to give away the water and one of the bagels but the guy we gave it to did not seem interested in conversation.
We met up with all of the other groups in a grassy area just to the west of the US Capitol. There we heard everyone's stories of what they experienced and learned as a result of their urban plunge.
Wednesday, July 25
Today Doug and I staid with the groups that we had on Tuesday. My group's theme for the day clearly was in caring for the elderly. We started out our morning by going to Model Cities Senior Wellness Center. This was not a residential place. Instead it was kind of like a YMCA for the area Seniors. It was very nice. All our teens jumped right in and mingled with all of the people there. We participated in an aerobics class, some played pool with others, some went to the social hall and had some great conversations with the Seniors hanging out in there. At one point I noticed that there were some from my team that I have not seen in a while. As I wandered the building to see where they landed I found them in the choir room. They were singing songs with some of the people in there. I sat in and just listened. Once they were done, I kindly recommended that they get Zachary in there to sing a solo. Of course, the people were thrilled at the suggestion and so was Austin! Austin went to go get him. At first Zach acted like a deer in the headlights, but then with Austin helping him, they ended up singing a duet and the people loved it! We had a great time here.
For lunch we stopped at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It had so much art all throughout the building from architecture to paintings to sculptures to stained glass to murals, etc. etc. etc. The very building commanded a respect and sense of awe as you walked through it and looked at its beauty.
Our afternoon ministry site was at St. Thomas More Medical Center. In the building that we were in many of the residents were undergoing dialysis. There were 5 floors of people. It was our job to go from floor to floor and seek out anyone who would like a visitor. If they said yes, then we would spend some time talking and praying with them. I could tell that this was uncomfortable for our teens. But with a little coaching and prompting, they did really well in approaching people and entering into conversation with them, then concluding their time with prayer. I was able to see at least a few who were deeply touched by our teens. It was a much different experience from our morning site. Here many were suffering and dealing with major health issues. Some felt very isolated or alone. We were able to interact with many of them on a positive level. We concluded our time with our debrief time in Lincoln Park.
We had the evening to ourselves so we took all the teens down to Union Station for dinner. Doug ended up meeting some relatives and I connected with my sister and her family for dinner. Most of us ended up at the Uno Pizzeria. It was nice to catch up with family and allow the teens to have some downtime to hang out and eat some familiar food! Once everyone was done, we met back up and walked down to the U.S. Capitol. The band from the U.S. Marines was playing a concert and we got to hear the tail end of it. It was a great night to hear the music and enjoy our surroundings. After that, we tried to make a quick dash to the Lincoln Memorial but we just couldn't make it happen. Maybe on the day we leave we will try again!
Overall, things have been going really, really well with all of the teens! We are having a great time!